MR’s Guide to the Best Summer Beach Read

You could say this post is a real page turner

06.30.16

If the beach isn’t your ideal spot for a page-turning sesh, cancel your Jitney ticket and bask in the introverted comfort of your very own couch. We won’t tattle.

Wouldn’t it fun if, instead of all the pressure to get “beach body ready,” we focused on getting “beach read ready”? Conversations would circle around around travel — not for the destination but because trains, planes and automobiles (if you don’t get car sick) offer blocks of uninterrupted reading time. We’d all rush to finish projects at work not so that we can make our spin class on time to sweat off that final pound, but to snag a last copy of some newly released book. We’d stress about weight in our luggage and carryons as opposed to on our bodies, because any extra room in a handbag or suitcase would be reserved for another book on our list. Also: books are heavy.

And we’d find that carbs — cheese, alcohol and sweets — came highly doctor recommended.

Can’t we make that world, though? Isn’t that what reading is so often about: the willing suspension of disbelief? Or for the non-fiction readers who prefer fact, how about this one: beach reads are simply books to devour — and they absolutely do not require a beach.

So! Here we are. Making that world, starting with a slideshow of picks from team MR detailing what we’re reading this summer and why. Add yours below because we’re constantly looking for recommendations, or engage on Instagram using the hashtag, #MRBookClub. We’re bringing that shit to life, you’ll see what we mean shortly.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; creative direction by Emily Zirimis.

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  • Sara Johansen

    For a post about books there are quite a few typos! 😉

  • Anna Fiore

    Im in the midst of the third of the Neapolitan novels right now. The books punch you in the face hard. I can’t sleep because I just keep reading… Really, it’s a problem. Ferrante is honest and raw but with a poetic lilt I find most contemporary writing lacks.

    To clarify, there is a fourth installment in the series.

    • I second the recommendation

    • Aydan

      its next on my list to start after Samuel Pepys’ diary….BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO READING THESE FOR SOOOOOO LONG!!!!

    • These are so good! For real. Can we talk about the butt ugly covers on the US edition for a sec though? Someone needs to get it together because these books deserve so much better than this weird pastel-ized treatment they’re getting.

      • Anna Fiore

        baha you are totally right. Plus, the images are *barely* relevant to the actual books.

      • kes

        this is A Thing in publishing, as I understand it! Women writers’ books so often get stuck with ugly romance-y covers. These are especially bad, though, which is a shame because she is especially GOOD.

    • Cristina Feather

      I’m just crazy about her books and experienced the same thing. I knew I had to wake up at 6:30 in the morning but kept reading and reading well over midnight. She feeds my soul. I know that sound cheesy af, but well… she does!

  • When I think of summer reading I always think of Tana French, probably because of the pub date.

    It’s technically a series, but you can pick and choose. (Though I highly recommend In the Woods.) French takes a super minor character in one book and creates a whole story for them in the next one.

    Also recommend The Madonnas of Echo Park, The UnAmericans, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Middlesex, The Shadow of the Wind, and The Poisonwood Bible.

    • In recent years I have developed a curious habit: I go and re-listen the audio books that I really love. Like The Shadow of the Wind. Done 3 times and to be repeated 🙂

      All The Light We Cannot See is a candidate, too .-)

      • I’ve actually thought of doing that. I started listening to audiobooks because I have significantly more time to listen than to read, but they sound so stilted compared to NPR/podcasts

        • That’s true – I am sticking to the French audio versions of Zafon’s books and of All The Light …, apart from that, I only listen to the Outlander books read by Davina Porter and that would be it. Don’t want to spoil the pleasure.

  • Tara Jayne

    I just read the book “what the psychic told the pilgrim” by Jane Christmas (Canadian author) and it was awesome! It’s about a 50 year old woman who walks the Camino de Santiago with a very large group of women and all of the things that go wrong, and what she finds out about herself, and its just an awesome story and SO MUCH MORE realistic and humorous than “eat pray love”. I read it in 2 days.

  • Grace

    There are 4 Neapolitan novels not just 3!

  • Alessandra

    annnnd just pressed “confirm” on my amazon order of The Girls. Can’t. Friggen. Wait.

    • pterridactyl

      I’ve just finished it and I loved every moment. You’re in for a real treat ??

    • cindy kazanjian

      I agree with @pterridactyl:disqus The Girls was great. I’m ready Before The Fall by Noah Hawley now. The Neapolitan novels are on my list. Adding The Crow Girl to my list now.

  • I’m currently reading a small collection of Walter Benjamin’s essays called On Photography, which is kind of like some context to Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, and I wouldn’t normally recommend academic reading for summer but I had a small epiphany and cried in a parking lot (not even on my PERIOD) after reading part of the introduction because it made me feel like I finally got Art. So if you’re into pictures, highly recommend.

    OH ACTUALLY, I do have a fun recommendation! I just read This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki which is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel about a girl’s coming of age at her summer cottage. It’s catalogued as a children’s/teen’s book and I was really most attracted to Tamaki’s illustration style, but DAMN the storyline and themes hold up.

    • libs

      Walter Benjamin is a GREAT guy, and if you get a good translation it really doesn’t feel like heavy academic reading. Totally seconding this rec. I also find Ways Of Seeing by John Berger to be a similar mix of pleasant & insightful art writing too!

    • Ola

      Definitely This One Summer, SO GREAT

  • Eva Skewes

    Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff was my favorite book of last year. It has a real crackle to it both in regards to the prose and the personalities. I started reading it late at night when I was sleepy and it just woke me up. In the most simplistic terms it’s the story of a marriage between Lotto and Mathilde. I’m reluctant to say more because the discoveries along the way are the best part of reading it.

    I’m also beginning Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi this weekend and have heard nothing but wonderful things about the story and the writing style. I’m a sucker for epic family sagas and have assurances from a trusted former co-worker (at an indie bookstore, she’s the manager, I was a bookseller) that it’s a great one.

    An old book, but a fantastic one, which I also just read for the first time is Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. It’s high fantasy – wizards, dragons, far away places, etc. – but doesn’t establish any of its stakes through war and the main character has true flaws that he spends the book working through. It’s written in a stunning melodic style, with a healthy dose of folk-loric tone. Ursula K. Le Guin is also a grade A writerly badass.

  • kes

    The Vacationers! Such a great pick–I truly couldn’t put it down. So funny and quick but also really touching. Also thanks for the reminder to read more of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels this summer 😉

  • Gina Fuchs

    I found a lot of power discovering my love of science in college — I minor in Astronomy (&creative writing), something I would have never imagined doing in high school. I always felt like i was ~horrible~ at math and science, I think that came mainly from the stigma surrounding girls in STEM. The first book that got me into all this ish was “A Brief History of Time”by good ol Stephen Hawking. A well known book, but can be daunting if you don’t think you’re well versed in astronomy – I wasn’t, now I love it. Try it on for size, so interesting.

    • Gina Fuchs

      ALSO So Sad Today- Melissa Broder (essays) … Crush by, Richard Siken (poetry) … Girl Boss by, Sophia Amoruso … Running with Scissors by, Augusten Burroughs (my favorite book)

      • I’m re- reading Possible Side Effects and it’s so freaking funny. Augusten is a genius!

        • Gina Fuchs

          Such a genius!!!

  • Jolie

    Yaaaaas! I’m such a sucker for the “beach read” genre that almost all of these were already on my summer reading list! I just bought the first book of the Neapolitan novels and am so excited to read it. I also need to order The Girls.

    Would also recommend Sweetbitter, a new novel by Stephanie Danler. Great beach read!

  • Ok, Krista, I was at the hipster book store the other day and they had all of Marukami’s books on display I wanted to get one but couldn’t decide. WHAT SHOULD I READ FIRST???

    • Kelly

      The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle!!!

  • libs

    I’m headed to Barcelona for a few days next week, and I’ve got a copy of the m The Argonauts to read which I am so excited for! I adore Maggie Nelson and have been saving this for a holiday treat. I think I’ll take My Brilliant Friend with me too – I started reading it but couldn’t finish before exam reading became a priority, but this reminded me that I own it and really ought to read it!!

    • Krista Anna Lewis

      The Argonauts is AMAZING. You’ll whip through it and want to start over again immediately.

  • Currently reading “Fates and Furies” by Lauren Groff (very good!) and re-reading “Swamplandia!” by Karen Russell (also great!). I have to be reading at least two books at any given time.

    I also just finished “My sunshine away” by m.o. walsh and highly reccomend it! Bought it on a whim in JFK and really loved the writing.

  • AlexaJuno

    The Girls by Emma Cline was really terrific. Not action packed, but stacked with fully drawn characters, lush, evocative writing, and some really beyond her years insights into the human condition, and the inner lives of women, in particular. Just great. She totally earned that $2 million dollar advance at 27 friggin’ years old.

    • Hayley Greland

      loved it!! walked into barnes and noble to buy my dad a fathers day gift card and walked about with that for myself, first novel i’ve bought in i don’t even know how long. now she’s got me reading again! just started Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Stemple and so far really enjoying it. Told through a serious emails, notes, and excahnges with occasional insight from Bernadette’s daughter who is trying to piece together her mother’s disapearnce. Funny and light, with a fun touch of insanity

    • Kattigans

      The author is my friend’s sister and she’s insanely smart! The whole Cline family is just incredible.

  • “She chose a magazine as opposed to a book because she has “commitment issues.” Her words”
    It’s insane how beyond accurate the above statement is!!

  • Nicole

    Love this! Please do more frequent (monthly?) book recommendations!

  • Greer Clarke

    Krista!! I wrote a thing about Colourless Tsukuru a little while ago! It was such a weird adventure that book. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it made me feel all kinds of things. Aughashgsdfsdklj so weird

    http://www.illustratedincolour.com/illustrated-in-colour-1/2016/4/8/book-post-no-title-yet

  • Seh

    Any book written by Elin Hilderbrand! She writes the best fictional summer reads. All of her stories take place on Nantucket, and it makes me want to travel there.

  • Rose Liang

    These seem like great recommendations. Can’t wait to check some of them out! I find Rebecca Solnit’s books to be the best summer reads (namely, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Wanderlust, and Men Explain Things To Me). Solnit’s writing is poetic, thoughtful, and insightful.

  • Deborah Starling

    I enjoy a good book in which the author “smacks me over the head” with some information or ideas that get me thinking. I was recently recommended a book called “Not Black and White” by political author G.A. Beller. As an avid follower of all things political this book was right up my alley. What a perfect time in our history to publish a book like this! I love any stories that stick with me after I finish and this one will stay with me forever. It really makes you think about how our political system works and exactly how much of it is “on the level”. Definitely add this one to your summer reading list: http://www.gabeller.com